I used to do everything for everybody, but now that I have my wish not to be the fix-it for everyone, I have trouble keeping my nose out of what’s no longer my job.
My Co-Dependency Challenge Of the Week
Last weekend, my family installed a new hardwood floor in my parents’ house without me. “And this affects me, how?” You might ask. The appropriate response for a recovered person is simple – it doesn’t. They aren’t my monkeys, and it isn’t my circus. But for years, I was in charge of that circus; they used to be my monkeys. And instead of being responsible for them, all I wanted was to be free to live my own life.
Now I’m Free But I Am Still Emeshed
All weekend, I made a conscious effort to not call and check on progress. I was painfully aware I wasn’t there being the peacemaker. I wasn’t protecting my brother from my parents’ criticisms or Co-dependent-ing my Co-dependent mother. I had the freedom I wanted, but I didn’t know how to handle it. I never dreamed of being a fear-driven mercenary whose main purpose was to protect me and my family from the wrath of one too many drinks. But, that’s what I became without realizing it.
Forty-five years ago, my dad loved to ride motorcycles. Through the house. While he was drunk. It’s a funny story, how crazy my dad used to be. Most of the antics from his drinking days are heavily guarded secrets, thank goodness, but occasionally, bits of truth sneak out. I wasn’t there. In fact, I wasn’t born yet, so those escapades didn’t affect me, right? I often told myself his “few too many” beers had nothing to do with me. In the rooms of recovery, we call that denial. How do families cope? They lie to protect the not-so-innocent.
Coping Skills Hide The Pain
My mom quickly learned coping skills, like lying for your spouse, hiding sobs with smiles, and every Co-dependent’s favorite – let’s hide the beer. Once my dad finally quit drinking, everyone viewed his alcoholism as a past nightmare never to be discussed again. Instead of healing and celebrating his miracle of sobriety, my dad lived with shame for his past and fear of a relapse. Driven by fear, my mom kept coping, and she without realizing it, she taught me to do the same.
Generational Sins Carry On The Denial
When my siblings admitted they had a drinking problem, my dad encouraged them to follow in his footsteps by keeping quiet and maybe go to a meeting or two. Much to his dismay, both of them sought inpatient treatment, and the people at work found out – gasp! They’re working hard to change their future, but we still don’t speak of it. They go to meetings; I go to meetings; and my parents still don’t have any problems.
As Sick as Our Secrets
My family’s recipe for recovery is a closely guarded secret, as is my Grandma Davis’s Sugar Cookie recipe. In recovery, I’ve learned the key to freedom is calling out the secrets. In our family, while we’re busy pretending everything’s “fine” we bake these cookies for church potlucks. When people rave about how amazing they are, we smugly smile. This recipe is who we are. It defines us. We never share this secret either. Until now.
One Good Carefully Guarded Secret
My Grandpa’s Grandma Davis’s Sugar Cookie Recipe
(Probably brought over from the old country – Paula Deen has used it, too. But we had it first)
1 cup butter – real butter not margarine
1 ¾ cup powdered sugar – the first of many “secret” ingredients. Most inferior sugar cookies use white sugar.
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon almond flavoring – seriously, if you share this recipe with anyone – leave this ingredient out!
Put butter into a large mixing bowl and blend with mixer on medium until smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar and mix on low or your kitchen will be covered in dust, so I’ve heard. Next add the egg, baking soda, cream of tartar and flavorings. (Wink. Wink.) Finally add flour. Mix until smooth.
Let this dough chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Since I come from a long-line of people pleasers, we then roll out the dough and cut into holiday shapes, bake the cookies at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes, and then spend hours decorating them.
If you tend to be a more recovered Co-dependent, you could just chill the dough, shape into balls and drop on the cookie sheet. That works too.
One last tip, if you share this recipe with anyone, tell them to set their oven to 350 and bake for 10 minutes. I’ve got to keep some of my family’s secrets safe.
Reach Out Recovery Exclusive by Pam Carver